Summer Planning II: Preparing Your Arrows to Fly True
But there was still a company of archers that held their ground among the burning houses. Their captain was Bard, grim-voiced and grim-faced, whose friends had accused him of prophesying floods and poisoned fish, though they knew his worth and courage. He was a descendant in long line of Girion, Lord of Dale, whose wife and child had escaped down the running River from the ruin long ago. Now he shot with a great yew bow, till all his arrows but one were spent. The flames were near him. His companions were leaving him. He bent his bow for the last time.Suddenly out of the dark something fluttered to his shoulder. He started—but it was only an old thrush. Unafraid it perched by his ear and it brought him news. Marvelling he found he could understand its tongue, for he was of the race of Dale."Wait! Wait!" it said to him. "The moon is rising. Look for the hollow of the left breast as he flies and turns above you!" And while Bard paused in wonder it told him of tidings up in the Mountain and of all that it had heard.Then Bard drew his bow-string to his ear. The dragon was circling back, flying low, and as he came the moon rose above the eastern shore and silvered his great wings."Arrow!" said the bowman. "Black arrow! I have saved you to the last. You have never failed me and always I have recovered you. I had you from my father and he from of old. If ever you came from the forges of the true king under the Mountain, go now and speed well!"The dragon swooped once more lower than ever, and as he turned and dived down his belly glittered white with sparkling fires of gems in the moon—but not in one place. The great bow twanged. The black arrow sped straight from the string, straight for the hollow by the left breast where the foreleg was flung wide. In it smote and vanished, barb, shaft and feather, so fierce was its flight. With a shriek that deafened men, felled trees and split stone, Smaug shot spouting into the air, turned over and crashed down from on high in ruin.
- The Hobbit
According to Tim, in the time before arrows were standardized, when they were still made entirely of natural materials, each individual arrow had to be formed, smoothed, and balanced individually to shoot true from the hand of the archer. The Psalmist likens our children to arrows in Psalm 127, and our progeny certainly don’t come standardized. Each has his and her individual personalities, gifts, and quirks. In order to be able to fly true, therefore, each child needs special preparation.
Our conversation about arrows came about as we were discussing annual goals for the coming school year. Every summer Tim and I think through the strengths and weaknesses of each child and try to set priorities and direction. These annual goals differ from some other more global ones we have. Years ago Tim wrote a family mission statement which still guides decision making, and we also composed some long-term goals for our homeschool. (Why are we doing this anyway? This can be very helpful when you start to lose focus on those overwhelming days or weeks!) But these shorter term, individualized goals, have been a big help in making plans each school term.
Here’s how we do it. We could come up with a specific goal for each child in every aspect of his or her life, but realistically these goals would just stay on paper and would not translate into action. Luke 2: 52 tells us “and Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Following this outline, we choose one primary goal for each child in these four areas: academic/intellectual, spiritual, physical, and social/practical. Tim and I find a quiet time together and I fill out a chart as we talk about the needs and abilities of each one of our sons and daughters still at home. Sometimes themes emerge, and other times the needs of each individual are quite varied. For example, last night we saw a theme materialize about caring for others rather than solely for oneself, but with different applications. For an older child, we want him to begin to take spiritual responsibility for himself and his friends, while a younger one needs to learn unselfishness in his interactions with his siblings.
We then flesh out these goals as we make curriculum and extracurricular activity choices. They help us know how to pray and direct our children. We think through what means will help us achieve these goals, and sometimes use objective planning sheets to write down these ideas. It also helps to remember that the goals on our document aren’t the sum total of what we hope to accomplish in a year. Just because the primary academic goal last year for Ben was that he would become a proficient reader didn’t mean that I didn’t also work with him faithfully in math and many other subjects. It did mean though that the number one academic goal for him was to become a reasonably fluent reader. (Yay! That one was accomplished!)
Do we reach 100% in every goal by the end of the year? No way! Sometimes we’ve made unreasonable goals for that child, other times we were redirected, and still other times we failed through lack of effort or we became distracted. Nonetheless, knowing that we will miss the mark (often), we believe that aiming in the right direction helps us move forward.
As you make plans, whether goal-setting, or any other aspect of planning, you need to earnestly seek the Lord for His direction and help. But also, in planning, humility is necessary. I do love to plan, but that is probably because I love to be in control, and in truth, I am not! So, even as Tim and I make plans and goals, we need to be willing to allow the Lord to redirect, interrupt, and totally change our plans. I should probably write on the cover of my planning binder Proverbs 16: 9 which says, “The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.”
So yes, along with your husband, do make plans and set goals for the coming school year! But at the same time, be alert for the Lord’s direction and welcome His changes in life’s curricula!